To say it’s been a rough couple weeks injury-wise for the Utah basketball team would be an understatement.

The latest injury forced Utah coach Craig Smith to utter the dreaded “next man up mentality” phrase.

“We’ve got to prepare for life without him,” Smith said after seeing a third starter — guard Deivon Smith — go down during Utah’s latest Pac-12 road setback Wednesday, a 79-57 loss to Washington State.

Familiar issues creep up again in Utah’s blowout loss at Washington State

An examination of their roster shows what options the Runnin’ Utes currently have as they compete in the thick of their Pac-12 schedule:

Utah center Lawson Lovering shoots over Stanford forward Maxime Raynaud Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, in Stanford, Calif. | Godofredo A. Vásquez, Associated Press

Injured players with questions about their return time

  • Utah starting point guard Rollie Worster, who is averaging 9.9 points and 5.5 assists per game, suffered a lower leg injury and last played against UCLA on Jan. 11. He was considered a game-time decision for the Utes following a game at Stanford but has now missed four straight games and has been seen wearing a boot on his left foot.
  • The Utes’ starting center, Lawson Lovering, was hurt less than four minutes into Utah’s game at Stanford on Jan. 14 and has yet to play since. It appeared to be an ankle injury — he wore ice on his left foot after the injury. Like Worster, the coach hasn’t provided a timetable on a possible return for Lovering.
  • The latest injury came Wednesday night when Deivon Smith, who replaced Worster in the starting lineup, left Utah’s loss at Washington State with just over six minutes left in the first half. He was hurt contesting a 3-point shot, and after the game, Utah’s coach called it a lower leg injury while adding he wasn’t sure if Smith would be available for Saturday’s game at Washington. He averaged 33 minutes, 18 points, nine assists and 8.3 rebounds in the previous three games.

Injured player who isn’t playing this season

Utah center Branden Carlson (35) walks on the court after a game against Washington State, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Pullman, Wash. | Young Kwak, Associated Press

Available players

Full-time starters

  • Branden Carlson, the fifth-year senior who is averaging 17.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, has missed one game this season but has otherwise been a mainstay. He slid back into the five spot after Lovering’s injury after playing more at the four. Carlson briefly left Wednesday’s game after taking an elbow to the face.
  • Guard Gabe Madsen is one of two starters who hasn’t missed a game this season. Madsen, who is averaging 13.2 points and has made a team-high of 58 3-pointers, missed several weeks with an injury last year, a contributing factor to Utah’s late-season slide.
  • Guard Cole Bajema is the other starter who hasn’t missed any time. The Washington transfer has been steady for the Utes both as a scorer (averaging 9.2 points) and as a defender (with 14 steals and six blocks).
Utah center Keba Keita dunks against Washington State during a game Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.
Utah center Keba Keita dunks against Washington State on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Pullman, Wash. | Young Kwak, Associated Press

Players with starting experience

  • Center Keba Keita, who’s missed some time this season due to injury, slid into the other starting post position after Lovering went down. The talented sophomore continues to make an impact on both ends of the floor, shooting 66% while averaging 10 points per game; his 22 blocks and 6.4 rebound average are second only to Carlson.
  • Forward Ben Carlson started in place of Branden Carlson during his one-game absence against Southern Utah in the nonconference portion of the schedule and he started last year for the Utes. Smith has often praised the work of Ben Carlson this season, and this season he’s added valuable minutes in the post while adding a scoring punch — he’s averaging 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Utah guard Hunter Erickson controls the ball against Washington State, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Pullman, Wash. | Young Kwak, Associated Press

Bench players

  • Depending on the severity of Smith’s and Worster’s injuries, Hunter Erickson is the likely starting point guard for the time being. The transfer guard is averaging 3.8 points, 2.3 assists and 1.1 rebounds per game. Erickson played 27 minutes against the Cougars on Wednesday, scoring four points on 2 of 6 shooting to go with three assists, two rebounds and a block.
  • Wing Luka Tarlac and guard Jayden Teat have seen their playing time increase incrementally since Worster and Lovering went down. That’s likely to stay the case as long as injuries impact Utah’s rotation, with Tarlac adding length inside and Teat a few more minutes running the point.
  • Wing Jake Wahlin and guard Brandon Haddock are the only other Utes with playing time this season, though it’s largely been in mop-up time. Wahlin is a former BYU signee who switched to Utah after a two-year mission and has played in six games, while Haddock is a third-year Ute who’s played sparingly as a reserve.
  • Guard Jerry Huang and forward Ayomide Bamisile are on the roster, but have yet to play this season.

Utah head coach Craig Smith, left, speaks with guard Jayden Teat (3) during a game against Washington State, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Pullman, Wash. | Young Kwak, Associated Press

Where does this leave Utah?

For now, the Utes have 12 healthy and available players, but only six of those average 18 minutes or more.

Utah is down its top two point guard options — both Worster and Smith were averaging 23 or more minutes per game — and missing a post player in Lovering, who’s been key to setting a physical tone in the paint.

It leaves Utah in a precarious position, with the midway point of the conference season approaching, while Erickson likely takes on a more prominent role and guys like Tarlac and Teat — perhaps even Wahlin — get more up to speed.

“Obviously that’s huge. You don’t plan for that stuff. It’s a part of the game, probably the worst part of the game is getting hurt,” Madsen said after Wednesday’s loss. “But at the end of the day, you know, we can’t make excuses about it.

“We were right in that game. And we always talk about next-man-up mentality and you know, like I said, we’re right in that and it just kind of got away from us.”

Utah guard Luka Tarlac passes the ball against Washington State, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Pullman, Wash. | Young Kwak, Associated Press